Note: Much of my blog came from a memoir – ‘Overload’ – I wrote years ago. The story in ‘Overload finished around 2009, and only touched on the conclusion of my dietary issues. For the purpose of ‘The Other Me’, I wrote all new material from that point.
Also, for the purpose of ‘The Other Me’, I decided when I began the blog to start it from my first panic attack, as that seemed a nice dramatic entry. That meant all my early years were omitted.
I’m now going to revise and post them …
I’ve always been weird. Not howl-at-the-moon weird, but as a kid there were things about me that were a bit odd.
Like, when I was eight, I went to get a drink of water from the tap and I’d usually rinse the glass three or four times before I filled it up. This time I kept rinsing and rinsing it, because it didn’t feel ready to fill. It hadn’t been quite rinsed. I kept going for a minute, unable to stop myself until my grandmother snapped at me about wasting water. That broke the spell and I got my drink.
About a year later, I stood in line at the canteen waiting to buy a Big M. My mum had given me a fifty-cent piece for lunch money that morning, which I twirled in my hand. In the line to the right of me, two girls – maybe three or so years older than me – argued. The first girl wanted a loan from the second girl; the second girl didn’t want to give her a loan, so she asked me if I’d swap my fifty-cent piece for the same amount in change. This meant she wouldn’t have change to loan the first girl.
Intimidated, I swapped.
Then I felt guilty. My mum had given me that fifty-cent piece. I was going to buy a Big M with it. Now I had money but not the fifty-cent piece. My unease grew. I became attached and loyal to possessions. Several years later I got upset because we were going to replace our fridge. It was a betrayal. On this occasion, I considered asking the girl to give back my fifty-cent piece. Finally, I convinced myself the money was still going to the canteen, where it would be spent – just as I’d intended. Everything was okay.
Another time, I became obsessed my mum wouldn’t come home from work, so I planted myself in front of the TV and watched the evening news, certain they’d report her death. Every commercial break, I braced myself. Relief flooded me once the News was over, but the next day I was back at it. This went on for a couple of weeks, until the fear disintegrated.
About a year or two later I’d have episodes where I felt down and alone – even though I had plenty of friends. I became hyper-conscious, overly aware of the thoughts in my head. These times never lasted long. They touched me and then evaporated.
Maybe it was my imagination. All my teachers commented on how imaginative I was. Or maybe I was overly sensitive. I was the youngest child in a family of four boys. My three brothers had all been born within a five-year bracket. I was born seven years later. I was the baby in the family.
It didn’t help that my parents spoiled me. They’d come here from Greece in the 1950s and toiled in low-paying jobs (as many migrants did, taking what they could get as they struggled with the language) to provide for their kids and save for the future. But I got whatever I wanted and they’d order my brothers to cave into me when I argued with them or played games with them.
My parents also shouted a lot. That’s how they communicated. That’s how a lot of European families talk – with shouting until the paint blisters off the walls. I don’t know if ours was any worse. It was loud, though.
Funnily, there were public service commercials on TV about shouting parents and the effect it had on kids. In the commercial, two parents argued until their kid screamed at them to stop. Then the parents were all remorseful.
One time my parents were shouting and it was getting to me, so I snapped at them to shut up. My dad shouted at me to shut up, asking who I was to tell him to shut up in his own house. So there was more shouting. About the shouting.
Naturally, when they shouted, there would be times people would shout back. Then it was shouting all over. It was a shoutfest. The only time my parents talked quietly was when they were deadly serious. Their voices dropped to a whisper, and they pronounced their words slow and with em-PHA-sis.
There were also the blasting tours. If my parents were unhappy, then everybody got it. They’d blast the offender; then whoever was in their line of vision, or make somebody be in their line of vision. My mum would hunt and destroy. There was nowhere to hide.
The other thing thrown around a lot was the guilt – lots of stories about how they’d travelled all the way from Greece to make a better life in Australia; how hard they worked to provide for us; and how (for example), when they were young in Greece, they had to walk miles through the snow and fight bears to get to school, (so we should be thankful for how easy we had it – and it’s true, I’d never fought a bear to get to school).
Or there were times my mum would lie on the couch and lament how sick she was. She always had something. This happened lots after she’d done something for us or after you’d gotten in an argument with her. There’s not a lot to say when it seems your arguing has driven your mother to death’s door.
But, like I said, this was normal. There was nothing malicious in anything. My parents were (and are) good people. It was just the way things were.
So maybe it was just me.